Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spoiled: Consuming media in the age of DVR, blogs, and wikipedia

I started really getting into television because of a combination of two things: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the internet. They came into my life at about the same time when I was in junior high and they really fed into each other. I had friends in real life that watched Buffy too but they weren't quite as obsessed as I was, so I turned to the internet. I became a regular at the official Buffy "posting board" (an early message board/chat room type thing) where fans from all around the world discussed and dissected the show and our obsession with it. In those days, I had a VCR that I could record episodes on but I generally watched the show live and got onto the PB immediately to see what everyone else thought.

Spoilers back then had a slightly different meaning to me...they were generally information about future episodes, gleaned from casting notices and people who were extras and stuff like that. I knew that reading spoilers in a lot of ways ruined the effect of the show, but I just wanted to know everything. I would occasionally go through these stages where I'd endeavor to remain "spoiler-free" and I'm pretty sure that I enjoyed the show more but eventually I'd go back to old habits because I so badly wanted to know what was going to happen next.

Then a few years ago, something else happened: I got a DVR. In many ways, this was one of the best things to ever happen to me (I'm not exaggerating). I wasn't tied to network airing schedules anymore, I could record two things at once, and I could fast-forward through commercials (and boring parts of shows like American Idol) among other things. I can't imagine my life without it.

But there's a side effect to the wonderfulness of the DVR: I now rarely watch shows "live" or right away. Depending on what day it is and how much I like the show, I watch most shows a day or two later, or in some cases, weeks later. Which means that spoilers now have a different definition: it's what happened on a show that's aired already but that I just haven't watched yet. And yes, I still read them!

It's especially bad with reality shows. For example, Top Chef airs on Wednesday nights at 10PM, which is past my bedtime (yes, I go to bed that early). So right when I wake up on Thursday morning, there are the recaps from various blogs in my Google Reader, which of course I have to read. I try to skim and just see who won and who was eliminated but I mean, what else is there? I then generally watch the show after work that evening and the suspense is completely gone.

Horrifyingly this behavior has now spread to movies and books, thanks to wikipedia. I've never been very timely with these...I rarely see movies in the theater and I generally wait for books to get to the library. I have been known to sneak a peek at the ending of a book before reading the whole thing (confession: I read the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because I was so afraid that someone important was going to die) but now I can go to wikipedia and read the entire summary of a book before I even have it in my hands. It's especially bad with books that are in a series, like the Hunger Games and Steig Larsson's Millenium trilogy. The same goes with movies. It's just too easy!

So I think I'm going to embark on another spoiler-free experiment. There is actually one TV show that I've already been spoiler-free on: The Vampire Diaries. I watch it pretty much live every Thursday night and because of the huge amount of twists and cliffhangers (VD has a cliffhanger practically before every commercial break), I'm always so glad that I didn't know what was going to happen beforehand. The few times I couldn't watch it live and read spoilers, my enjoyment was definitely diminished.

I'm not going to change my viewing habits...I'm just going to really restrain myself from reading recaps and avoid spoiler-y blogs and websites. A lot of scripted shows are on hiatus until April, so for now my two main challenges will be Top Chef and The Amazing Race. Wish me luck, and I'll report back in a month or so!

1 comment:

Mira said...

i love spoilers, too, but that's cuz i don't like to be surprised in general. and i get especially mad if someone i wasn't expecting to die gets killed off at the end.

the kindle has helped me to read books without jumping to the end. simply because it's too hard to do so and get back to the part you were reading! :)